Welcome to the monthly series "5 Questions with..." where we introduce you to leaders from around the association. This week we meet Pastor Hwan Kim. Hwan is the Lead Pastor at Korean Central Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Additionally, he has just finished his tenure on the JBA Leadership Team.
1. What are you currently celebrating in ministry?
The church I serve is an immigrant church. Our church was founded by immigrants who heard the Gospel and wanted to gather together as a church.
As immigrants, they left their homeland to come to another country, and they had to endure, suffer, and adjust to a different culture and different language. Next February will mark the fifth year of our church. For many immigrants, the church is a place of healing and restoration to wash their wounds through the Gospel, more than just teaching and witnessing of the Gospel. Currently, we have started small groups and we look forward to what God will accomplish through them. I am grateful that our Sunday School Bible Study groups have been established and that they are going well. I am also grateful that the youth group and small groups (we call them "coffee breaks") have been established and that they are going well. Through small groups, we hope to know and see Jesus, who restores us and cleanses our wounds. As we grow our small groups one by one, we could feel the anticipations and expectations, which are much greater than we had originally thought. Everyone is actively making efforts to participate. I'm so grateful! Through small groups, we await the wonderful works of God.
2. What might we be surprised to know about you?
I became saved at the age of 32. Before I became a born-again Christian, my wife fasted and prayed for a week for my salvation. One day, I came home from work, and I saw her sitting at the table, praying and reading the Bible. The next morning my wife was still sitting at the same table praying, just like the previous night. While I had to go to work, I was deeply moved. This continued for a week. Then, on Saturday evening my wife shared the Gospel with me and I accepted it. Next Sunday, I went to church with her.
My wife was born and raised in a Christian family. We needed to find a church, so she kept searching for one that we could go to. A month later, after visiting several churches in the small village where we had lived, she told me with joy that she had finally found a "good church" that we should go to. She said that the pastor's sermon was moving and powerful. So, I decided to follow my wife's recommendation and go to that church together. We arrived at the church, located in the basement level of a tiny townhouse, and it was a newly created church. Inside, we found the pastor leading the worship service and there was no one else except for the two seated congregants. It turned out that one of them was the wife of the pastor and the other was the daughter. That church was the "good church" that my wife had found.
We became the first members of that church and we served in the church until we came to America. The church had grown over time, and during that time, I learned to study God's Word from the Bible, served in Sunday School, and witnessed the growth of that church in so many ways. God showed me, a new believer, what it was like to be in a new church, and how it was to be in a growing church.
3. Where is your favorite place to go in the Jacksonville area and what do you do there?
Sometimes I go to Jacksonville Beach. Sometimes I go there with my wife and sometimes I go alone. While standing on the beach and watching the sea, we spend our time thinking of God who is leading our way. We also pour out our heart to God for our difficulties and hardships that we go through in our ministry. We go to the Beach Pier at night, not for fishing, but to watch the sea, and our hearts become refreshed and peaceful. When I'm staring at the sea at night, I feel as though God is very close to me. I hear the quiet voice of God. In that place, when the ministry is difficult and exhausting, I see my reflection before God. In that place, God gives me comfort and courage.
Every Monday, I also go to a park that is nearby my home. I walk for two hours. While walking, I ask God about the message that I need to preach. During this time, my body feels light. During this time, God helps me to simplify and untangle my complicated thoughts. During this time, God helps me to organize the message for the upcoming service. I go there in the morning and once again in the afternoon for another two hours of walking.
4. What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
While studying for my M.Div at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, I started a new church, the All Nations Baptist Church of Dallas Fort- Worth. I served in the church until I came here to Jacksonville. Now, whenever I visit a small church or newly started church, I feel blessed and I feel peaceful. I think God has given me the heart for these churches. I think church planting is a powerful tool for witnessing the gospel of God. But it is not something anyone can do. I have come to realize through my experience that church planting can only be done by those who have received the special grace of God. When my church (Korean Central Baptist Church of Jacksonville) started, our church met at my house for the first 7 months and we helped our core-members to grow. Now the church is nearly in its fifth year and has its own church building. However, the sad part is that only one of the core members remains in the church today. Church planting was not as easy as they thought.
5. Who are your biggest influences?
It is my mother. She is no longer in the world we live in. She went to the Father's house in heaven. She was married to a teacher. However, she lived like a farmer, not like a teacher's wife. She planted and cultivated the land during her lifetime, and from there she gathered up the fruit and fed her children. I remember the day my mother went into the operating room for surgery with stomach cancer. As she entered the operating room, she raised both hands to heaven and hailed "Hallelujah!" The surgery was successful, but her remaining life was not easy.
I like my mother. I miss my mother. Who else can say that the most influential person in their life is their mother? My mother served my father. She served her beloved children. She served as if her life depended on it. She did not want to be exalted even from her own family. My mother was always as humble and lowly as Jesus. She never said "NO" to my request. I wait for the day to see her again.
Jacksonville Baptist Association